Friday, August 2, 2013

Kuchipudi dancer - Anupama Mohan

by Shalet Jimmy
published in The New Indian Express
July 2013
Photo Courtesy : Mithun Vinod

In Memory of her loving Guru

Little Anupama walked with her parents through a coconut grove. At the far end of it, she saw a large hall with hundreds of footwears at its entrance.

Around the hall, there were small huts reminding of the ancient gurukul system. A large sculpture of Nataraja mesmerised her when she entered the hall. There she saw a lean and tall man but with a charismatic face. He asked her in his usual hoarse voice to perform. Without any inhibition, eight-year-old Anupama danced before him without knowing that, she was pleasantly flaunting her passion before the legendary Kuchipudi exponent Vempati Chinna Satyam, who is no more.

Thus started her journey as a dancer under his tutelage.

Several years later, renowned Kuchipudi dancer Anupama Mohan reminisces about her guru, whose first death anniversary fell on July 29 and the days she spent with him performing across the globe. Anupama has organised Guru Smarananjali, Nrithya Samarpana Dance Festival - 2013 at Changampuzha Park, Cultural Centre, Edappally, from July 27 to 30, the first festival organised in the country in memory of the veteran.

“It was in the late 60’s and I still remember his address - No 5, Prakasam Road, T Nagar. I came to Chennai with my parents to see the great maestro. After my performance before him, guru told my father that I was cut out for dancing and that I should take the residential course to learn the great art form. But as girls were hardly allowed to move into such an arena, my parents took six months before enrolling me into the gurukul system of the guru. Later, convinced of my destiny, my parents decided to shift me to Chennai and my mother and two younger sisters accompanied me,” she says.

Anupama fondly remembers that she was totally unaware of the aura of the great man when she met him for the first time. “Hence I learnt and performed under him without any restraints. But as time flew, respect grew immensely. I was in awe for him for everything,” she remembers.

Anupama started performing with her guru right from the age of 10 and says that guru was very particular about lots of things.

“He was very adamant about returning once the performance was over. Lingering around was not allowed. He was of the opinion that the client would lose interest in one party once their performance was over. In order to avoid such a situation, he insisted on returning by the next train. If we did not get a train, he used to take us sight seeing. If there were no accommodation arranged to spend the night in the railway station, we would place all our bags in a circle and every girl would sleep inside it. The orchestra and other males who accompanied us would stay awake giving us protection when we had to spend a night in the railway station,”she remembers her master with gratitude.

Anupama says that her guru never ever chided his students for making mistakes. “If he gets  angry, the only thing he would ask us to do was to keep away from the line of dancers. For us students, it was like severing our head. He had never ever once beat his students,”she says.

Anupama was perhaps the first Kuchipudi dancer in Kerala who always reiterated the fact that Kuchipudi is all about dancing rhythmically in the brass plate. “The art form has never exerted any pressure on the performer to show any kind of acrobatics on the stage especially by putting a brass pot on the head. The fact is that it needs a balance of body and mind to dance on the edges of the brass plate. It is tough too. My guru and his guru late Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastri never favoured any sort of unwanted strain on the performer,” she says.

Anupama says with a satisfaction that after much effort, the artists are waking up to this reality. “For the past two years, things have changed dramatically,” she says.

Anupama has also organised an All India Classical Dance Festival- 2013 titled ‘Naatya Kousthubh Nrityotsav’ in Thrissur. It was organised to by her academy Sathyaanjali Academy of Kuchipudi Dance to give a platform to the art lovers across the country to popularise their respective dance forms.  Besides, the festival also gives an opportunity for the budding artists to share the stage with prominent artists of the time. Anupama says that in memory of her master, a life time achievement award has been constituted which will be conferred to art promoter Soorya Krishnamoorthy.

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